Microsoft’s Hyper-V virtualization platform may be a 12 year old hanging out with a bunch of high school seniors, but this pre-teen is mature for his age. Could Hyper-V be the Doogie Howser of virtual infrastructures?
I am humbled to be invited to share my Hyper-V experiences, opinions, lessons learned, etc. on Justin’s IT Blog. I am a former co-worker of Justin’s and faithful follower of his blog even though I am not a VMWare administrator; It’s always nice to know what the other guys are doing. I have 14 years of experience in the IS/IT field and am currently working in the healthcare industry. Our Hyper-V environment consists of a single highly-available failover cluster with 120 VMs over seven hosts and makes up approximately one-third of our entire server footprint.
Just like Dr. Howser being able to treat patients as effectively as an older doctor, Microsoft’s Hyper-V is able to meet enterprise-class requirements for stability, performance, and high availability. However, Doogie, even being a genius, had two character flaws that created each episode’s comedic and learned life lessons. One such flaw was with lack of wisdom (knowledge gained through experiences). Whereas matured virtualization hypervisors have been honed by years of use by thousands of customers, Hyper-V hasn’t had that much time to find what works and what doesn’t. Yes, they’ve paid attention to the lessons learned by Citrix and VMWare but that knowledge cannot equal working through the bugs and challenges of keeping an innovative edge over your competition. Doogie’s other flaw is that he was a teenager in an adult’s world. He was torn between socializing with his adolescent friends while still trying to fulfill his adult responsibilities. Needless to say, conflicts always ensued. The same comparison can be made with Hyper-V as it is desperately trying to achieve the same level of product maturity and necessary features expected in any medical doctor, yet you still sometimes think “What am I doing putting this much trust and importance into such a young man?” This brings us to the intended point of this article. With the release of Windows Server 8, Hyper-V will turn 3 and will bring with it its first mustache. The difference is this ‘stache is not thin and patchy, it is a full on Burt Reynolds crumb catcher! Our little hypervisor is growing up so fast.
To start off, v.3 will support multiple simultaneous Live Migrations (or VMotions in VMware speak) which VMware shops have enjoyed for many years. Microsoft is also removing the shared storage requirement to perform a Live Migration which gives more flexibility on the medium in which the VMs are moved (wireless, anyone? No? Good choice!) and the target, even if the target does not have access to the cluster shared volume (VMWare translation: Vdisk). This is achieved because Hyper-V’s Quick Storage Migration feature is evolving into Live Storage Migration which allows you to move the VM’s disk at the same time as Live Migrating the VM.
In addition to the improvement with uninterrupted migrations of VMs, Hyper-V has learned to do virtual switching. This was another major feature VMware offered that Microsoft couldn’t match. With Cisco’s announcement of Hyper-V support with its Nexus 1000V virtual switch, Hyper-V will now be able to support the same inter-VM traffic visibility, shaping, and bandwidth provisioning as ESXi.
To round out the list, Microsoft has increased the scalability of Hyper-V by supporting hosts up to 160 processors (cores and hyperthreads) and 2TB of RAM. Each VM will support up to 32 vCPUs and 512GB RAM which is a significant improvement over the current 4vCPUs and 8GB RAM. Also due to an upgrade to the VHDX file format, you will be able to provision up to a 16TB disk. These scalability improvements along with virtual switching pave the way supporting more enterprise, large-scale apps.
Those squeamish about trusting their health to young doctors (especially when they are the same age as their child) may just want to take another look at Hyper-V when Windows Server 8 is released. In almost every instance, there is a very significant cost difference between Hyper-V and ESXi environments in both initial acquisition and yearly maintenance. I believe VMware will have to make some tough pricing changes in the near future or risk losing even more market share to the boy genius.